Retirement and Addiction: 4 Essential Mental Health Tips for Senior Citizens
By Jim Vogel
Growing older means you have to be more diligent about taking care of your health – both physically and mentally. As we age, we often find that we become ill more frequently with common colds or ailments, we might have more trouble with demanding physical tasks, and we might become fatigued more easily. These physical challenges can lead to feeling mentally worn-down, increase stress, or even lead to anxiety or depression, but these essential mental health tips will help you stay in tip-top emotional (and physical) shape.
More here on what you can do to actively avoid substance abuse issues into retirement. Then, we invite your questions, feedback, or comments in the section at the end. In fact, we try to respond to all legitimate inquiries personally and promptly!
MENTAL HEALTH TIP #1: Seek treatment for addiction immediately
Ongoing stress and depression can lead to addiction among older adults. Addiction is much more common than most people realized among the aging population, but there is help available. Your Medicare benefits may cover all or part of the cost of inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation for addiction treatment for seniors.
If you’re taking more than your prescribed dosage of prescription medications, are drinking more than one to two drinks per day, are mixing your prescription medications with alcohol, having trouble sleeping, memory loss, or other effects, it might be time to consider addiction treatment. Further, early intervention into substance abuse has been shown to be more successful than waiting. So, seek help immediately any time that you suspect you have a problem.
MENTAL HEALTH TIP #2: Stay socially engaged
One of the main contributors to depression in older adults is social isolation. Often seniors become isolated when mobility challenges make it increasingly difficult to leave the home or navigate sidewalks and parking lots to access the local senior center or other venues. Technology helps to bridge these gaps, but beyond staying socially connected online, you should make an effort to remain socially engaged in your community through regular, in-person interactions with friends and family.
Senior transportation can ease some challenges, helping you to get safely to community centers and other places in the community. Ask friends or family members to help you, and look into home modifications that reduce physical challenges. Volunteer for a local cause and join groups that interest you to meet other seniors with similar interests.
MENTAL HEALTH TIP #3: Learn Something New
You’re never too old to learn a new skill or craft. If you’ve always wanted to play the piano, why not start taking classes? Lifelong learning is one of the most effective ways to reduce cognitive decline and keep your mind sharp. In doing so, you’ll have a greater sense of achievement and confidence, which can improve your health and well-being.
Your mental health is just as important as your physical health to your overall well-being. Poor mental health contributes to stress, which can have a detrimental effect on physiological processes – making you more susceptible to colds and illnesses, as well as chronic disease. These tips will help you maintain strong emotional health as you age.
MENTAL HEALTH TIP #4: Get a Service Dog
If you suffer from depression or another mental health condition, a service dog can give you a sense of purpose and provide constant companionship. The benefits of service dogs are many; in fact, service dogs have even been credited with saving lives.
Even if you don’t have clinical depression or a diagnosed mental health condition, adopting a four-legged friend can dramatically improve your mental health. Having a friend to accompany you on walks, cuddle with, and listen to your problems (even if they can’t talk back) offers many emotional benefits.
About the author: Jim Vogel and his wife, Caroline, created ElderAction.org after they began caring for their ailing parents. Through that rewarding and sometimes difficult process they’ve learned a lot about senior care and specifically the need for more effective senior mental health and support. Their site offers elder-positive resources and other helpful information on aging. In his spare time, Jim loves fishing, reading, and spending time with his kids.
Photo credit: TXRMTODAY